Knives generally aren’t my thing. I’m a gun guy, and they’re my tool of choice when it comes to self defense. But with my side job as an EMT there have been a number of times where having a knife handy makes all the difference . . .
I remember one incident shortly before I left Fairfax where we had to cut a drunk driver out of his clothes to assess a heavily bleeding wound and having my knife handy saved us a good 30 seconds of poking around the bag for the trauma shears. It also helped with the hanging woman, but we won’t go into that one.
The point is that a sharp and reliable blade is something I’ve come to include in my daily loadout. Every morning I grab my watch, my wallet, cell phone, keys, knife and gun off the nightstand and walk out into the world ready to face any challenge. Considering my hobbies (shooting and pulling people out of car wrecks) I have a pretty high standard when it comes to the cutlery I carry.
So when I ran across the guys at Coast (full disclosure: I originally only stopped by their SHOT Show booth for the free beer) and they told me about their new “Rapid Response” knives I had to try one out. So they handed me their Rapid Response 3.90 right then and there and I’ve been carrying it ever since.
There are a few features about this knife that make it stand out to me. The first of which is the manual safety on the side of the knife.
When I was at SHOT it had only been a few weeks since I had gone out and become the scourge of the wildlife on Tyler’s ranch in Texas. I learned many things that weekend, the most interesting of which was how to field dress a deer.
For the uninitiated, “field dress” is a euphemism for disemboweling the freshly killed creature in an effort to preserve the meat. It involves opening the abdomen, splitting the sternum, cracking open the pubic symphysis and slicing out the animal’s internal organs. In order to accomplish the task you need a very sharp and very durable knife (and a Sawsall doesn’t hurt, either). Tyler had a trick for cracking open the cartilage that involved using the back of the knife blade as a wedge. That made me slightly nervous, though, that the knife was going to snap closed on his fingers.
The manual safety on this knife acts as a backup to the standard locking mechanism, providing a little extra piece of mind when you need it. And if you don’t want to use it you don’t have to. But there’s another reason I like the manual safety: the assisted opening mechanism.
I had never seen an assisted opening knife before SHOT, but after the show I felt like I had sat through a graduate course on the things. Assisted opening knives seem to be the “new thing” that more knife manufacturers are building into their blades. The basic principle is that the user opens the knife just a tiny bit and then an internal spring automatically opens it the rest of the way. It’s a legal loophole around anti-switchblade laws, and while I never felt that I absolutely needed that feature on my knife, it definitely makes opening the knife easier.
The only problem is that I had a small obsession with the idea that the knife was going to get snagged on something, open up in my pocket and slice the crap out of my leg. But thanks to the manual safety that idea was put to rest.
The other thing I liked about the knife is the profile of the blade. Some knives come with a crazy curving blade that’s impossible to sharpen using my old Boy Scout issue sharpening stone. But the Coast knife uses a simple straight main cutting surface with a gently sloping curve towards the tip.
There are, however, some issues with the knife.
The pocket clip leaves a little to be desired. I may have been spoiled by Benchmade’s flawless pocket clip design, but this one is a little tough to unhook from my station pants when I’m in a hurry. Which is just about every time I need the thing.
Complaint #2 concerns the durability of the blade. I’ve just recently moved to Texas, so I figured the perfect test of this knife was to use it to cut up all the cardboard boxes. It made it through about half of them while still razor sharp, but then it lost its edge. My Benchmade opened and destroyed an identical number of boxes but kept its razor sharp edge to the end. Admittedly it didn’t last much longer and both knives have needed a good sharpening, but it’s the little differences that matter the most.
The last issue I had was that the knife is a little too long for my taste. It clocks in at just under 4 inches, which makes it the longest folding knife I’ve ever owned. I asked for that on purpose — I wanted to try it out and see if I preferred the small blades or the larger ones better. And it turns out that I lean toward the smaller ones. But never fear: Coast makes a smaller version of this very knife that’s nearly identical and probably closer to my ideal length.
So what’s the verdict? Well, when you consider the totality of the evidence I still think it’s a fine knife for the money. It has some nifty features, and at $44 MSRP it’s not going to break the bank. If you’re looking for a good general purpose knife this definitely warrants a peek.
Coast Rapid Response 3.90
Blade Length: 3.9 in.
Overall: 8.75 in.
Weight: 4.8 oz.
Overall Rating: * * *
Not the perfect knife, but good enough.